Starting your BPM Project

Here is a place to start that has been successful many times over.

My only assumption is that you have already identified the process that you would like to manage/improve. [This description is simplified to keep it short.]
Document the Process

Interview all of the participants in this process. Write down what they say they do and when they do it. Are their tasks dependent on any others?
Run the Process

Follow the process manually to make sure that it really works as advertised. I am sure that you will pick up things that they forgot that should be in the process.
Metrics

Measure the process as you go. It is important to document your starting point. This way you will have something to measure against.
Improve the Process

Make improvements to the existing process. Remove non value-add activities – stuff that doesn’t help the process or your company. Identify where you could automate activities.
Metrics

Follow the new process manually and measure it. If the process is shorter and seems to work better, you are on the right track. This will help justify any expenditure that you might want to make – BPM software and/or automation coding.

I wish you success; your efforts will be worth it…

Scott Cleveland

Scott Cleveland is a technical, innovative and creative marketing manager with more than 25 years of experience in marketing, marketing management, sales, sales management and business process consulting aimed at high-tech companies.

The Best way to SOA? Try BPM

The ability to couple, uncouple, recombine and restructure the IT infrastructure of an organization quickly and easily is the underlying premise of SOA. A Service Oriented Architecture is more of an IT design concept rather than a specific definition or product. Yet even so, the rush to put SOA on the IT budget may well place it in the top position for new IT technology expenditures.

The idea of SOA is simple – the implementation of SOA is anything but simple. At the heart of SOA is the concept of services that are used for a specific operation of the business or that are combined to perform a specific operation of the business. What meets the criteria of “service” for each organization will be unique to that organization, the approach to the business the organization takes, and the degree of detail that is chosen by the organization for inclusion in the SOA.

What’s in a Service?

Many services are self-explanatory as to how they fit into an SOA. Services like payroll, credit-card processing, accounting and logistics are in many cases clearly defined as to what they do and where they interface into the operation of the organization. This is another of the conceptual benefits of SOA, the ability to “simply plug in” services from 3rd party or outsourcing organizations, also giving organizations the freedom of choosing between service providers or switching as needs change.

Other services like raw materials management, legal council, website support/marketing/maintenance or customer support have some degree of how, where or when complexity that presents a greater challenge in bringing them into the SOA. Yet all of these services share one thing in common, they are also processes.

Process Oriented Architecture

Because “process” can be substituted for “service,” an SOA can also be described as a Process Oriented Architecture. This is a more accurate term for describing the technical aspects of the architecture than is service. The term “service” is used primarily to emphasize the point that one of the main goals of an SOA is the ability to easily switch software, web and business services in and out of the IT infrastructure.

With outsourcing, competition and the internet as a means to offer web services this is becoming increasingly important. The preceding style of IT infrastructure with tightly integrated enterprise applications that are very difficult to change or replace is just not an acceptable structure for current business practices.

However, because the services of an SOA are indeed processes this blurs the lines between BPM and SOA. Are they at all similar? Are the processes referenced by BPM and SOA the same processes, or is this simply a matter of semantics?

BPM and SOA – On Common Ground

It turns out that what BPM terms “processes” is in reality a superset of the “services” concept of SOA. Business and functional processes are also often services although even these groups have an expanded scope beyond the boundaries of SOA. Enterprise processes that are essential to BPM do not translate into services under the SOA design.

Yet there are substantial differences between SOA AND BPM, differences that can have broad ranging affect on the organizations that deploy them. SOA addresses the technology need for agility and adaptability while BPM addresses both the business and the technology needs.

This is because SOA is a software architectural concept and BPM is commercial business software. One the one hand, we have the design concepts of SOA that can be built be organizations using a variety of technologies and approaches, on the other is a product that is configured.

BPM Fast Track

But with the commonality of purpose on the technological front, BPM is an excellent choice as the backbone of the organization’s SOA. With workflow, simplified integration, business rules and design aides, there is little effort required to configure desired SOA functions into the BPM software.

Further, because BPM is already designed to provide the additional services of real-time monitoring, reporting, analysis and optimization it is much easier to manage deployed services and to evaluate the integration and performance of these services.

Couple this with the capability to take action on the business aspect unique to BPM, and the case for using BPM software for SOA becomes very difficult to contest.

Yet there will be many investments in “home grown” SOA architectures. These systems will certainly perform the operations they are intended to do but their competitive value will be short lived replacement in the not to distant future will be all too common. The better bet, do SOA with BPM.

Terry Schurter

Terry Schurter

Terry is an Internationally recognized process expert, Author, Speaker and Thought Leader in Business Process Management (BPM) and Customer Experience Management (CEM).

Why is Business Process Management Important?

Business Process Management is a methodology, often backed by software, to manage businesses at a higher efficiency. That sounds great but…

What does this mean?

It is a derivative of the increasing complexity of doing business in an economy with ever increasingly competitiveness, where margins continue to narrow and the pressure to respond to market shifts is greater than any would have believed it could be 20 years ago.

And amid all this, companies must be run successfully – both in the long-term and under the enhanced scrutiny of success each fiscal quarter.

Businesses today must improve their agility while reducing costs and overhead on an ongoing basis. That is what BPM is intended to do.

BPM has a Clear Target

BPM is targeted at formalizing business processes into highly manageable and visible workflows. These processes already exist, but commonly vary from department to department, by function and through the requirements of interaction with various software products and business partners.
This creates a management and training burden, it stymies attempts at holistic reporting across the business and often results in duplicity of information handling as the information moves from one department to the next.

When these business processes are placed inside the common framework a BPM product supplies, several powerful things happen.

BPM in Action

First, reporting on these processes becomes naturally holistic. It is like a camera zoom that can be pulled back to get the overall “big picture” then zoom down into whatever details need to be seen.

BPM forces common business process methodology across the enterprise. When everyone uses the same system a commonality occurs that dramatically reduces training requirements, simplifies compliance efforts and enhances internal communications.

Duplicity is also eliminated because everything is under the same system. Even in the cases where information must exist in duplicate form, the BPM can automatically replicate this once it has been configured it to do so.

Obviously, these are attributes that every company can benefit from.

Is BPM a Silver Bullet?

But BPM is not a silver bullet. Simply buying a BPM system, installing it and turning it on will not magically transform business processes into a clean, crisp, efficient and holistic business management system.

It takes work and commitment – planning and dedication. BPM deals with systems, departments and individuals. It will touch every person in the business. It requires intelligent and well-thought out implementation. It forces change.

There are many highly successful BPM implementations, and there are also those that have provided little benefit, with some having an overall negative affect. BPM must be implemented with solid planning and commitment. Taking shortcuts when implementing BPM is a recipe for disaster.

Not just a Fad

BPM is not just a buzzword, or fad. It is something that companies need, both now and for the future. Because BPM is implemented through a structured software product it can easily expand and adapt with the growth and change of each company, protecting the company’s investment and aiding the success of the business.

A carefully selected, well thought-out and meticulously implemented BPM system will become a powerful tool for improving business operations. Once the BPM is in place, it provides a management system which dramatically simplifies the cost and time of product, market and business adaptations.

By giving the business a consistent framework for the processes of the business, training is dramatically reduced and proficiency is increased. Training based on consistent process methodology (which the BPM forces to occur) gives employees a baseline to work from. New processes, or modification of existing processes, are easily created and adopted because employees are comfortable with how the “system” works.

The benefits are there. There is substantial value that can be realized through BPM but it is important to consider the numerous factors will affect the final result. Poor planning or lack of commitment can whisk away the value of BPM and negate any return on investment.

Leah Morse

Leah is an author, producer, elearning developer, and marketing communications professional focused on the psychological and linguistic aspects of communication, and intercultural communication.

Using Criteria to Choose “Best Fit” Processes

How easy would life be if we only ever had one option? Remember Henry Ford? OK, I’ll have a black one Mr. Ford – thanks very much, next please. Sometime life is complicated and throws up more than one option, particularly for processes.

For example, in the morning I have two options of getting to work: car & train. Actually I have many more options than that, don’t I? I could walk, cycle, run, hang-glide, helicopter it, swim, etc. So there’s the first lesson when choosing a process:

1. Consider ALL the options, not just the ones you think might work (because you just never know what might work out best)
OK, so am I going to swim 14k to work? Probably not. Am I going to hang-glide? Not unless I want to die a hideous death. Second Lesson:

2. Eliminate all options that definitely won’t work
So when all is done and said I have a few options: Car, Bus, Train, Bike and Ferry. But how do I decide? There are several factors in the decision – it isn’t just a matter of how expensive it is or how fast it is. So how do I take that into account? Lesson 3:

3. List your criteria for the decision
So I come up with my criteria: Journey Time, Comfort, Price, Productivity (to explain that am I able to do productive stuff like work at the same time I travel). But once I have those criteria decided I need to work out how important each of them are to me. Lesson 4:

4. Give the criteria weightings
I come up with what is most important to me, so for example I rate each score out of ten. Next it’s time to score each and come up with the totals. But wait have I forgotten anything, have I missed anything? Yes, I’ve realised that I’ve forgotten a criteria score that covers risk! Which form of transport am I likely to be bombed by terrorists on? Or exposed to swine flu!?? So before you rate, you need one more lesson:

5. Review all options from the start
This is a bit like agile software development where you loop round and pick up what defects you’ve missed on the first pass. Then it’s just a matter of:

6. Adding up the scores
So once you’ve got all your criteria sorted, you plug in your scores, multiply the weighting by the rating, sum the totals and you should have what is the “best fit” process option.

This technique can be used for any method of comparison – choosing software, a vendor, a process – anything! It’s remarkably simple and remarkably effective. Just shows you – not everything needs to be complicated…

Craig Reid

Craig Reid

Craig Reid is known throughout the business world as “The Process Ninja”. He is a passionate advocate of business process management. His unique approach to business process improvement rapidly achieves business benefits by creating alignment between customers, strategy, processes and technology. Recognised as a leader in his field, Craig’s work has been featured on the BNet, Telstra Enterprise & Government and Flyingsolo.com.au websites as well as in the Sun-Herald newspaper.

Innovation – State Farm Insurance

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there… and the company takes that motto very seriously.

While it may be surprising to find that State Farm as a company believes very strongly in the unique and important purpose of insurance – the ability to mitigate the impact of unforeseeable and uncommon events by aggregating the risk over a large “pool” of people – this is exactly what they do believe. It makes sense, is a valuable service and stands alone as a business case, yet few insurance companies operate that way anymore.

So for State Farm customers, when something “bad” happens State Farm is “there” with incredibly simple “processes” for getting whatever happened put to rights.

You know the whole “good neighbor” thing comes from times past when a family would suffer a tragedy such as their house burning down. Their neighbors would take the distraught people into their homes then organize a “house raising” to get the family back into a new home quickly through the combined efforts of many.

State Farm still retains much of that mindset, and their customer processes are very streamlined – often imposing no extra activity on the customer or even taking steps to reduce the activity the customer must do to restore things back to the way they were.

When contrasted to one competitor, State Farm’s homeowner claims policy had 3 Moments of Truth while the competitor had 13. Which process do you think you would want to “experience” when you’re trying to get something fixed on your home?

Terry Schurter

Terry Schurter

Terry is an Internationally recognized process expert, Author, Speaker and Thought Leader in Business Process Management (BPM) and Customer Experience Management (CEM).

The Internet of Things

From an article by Tanmay Dey…

Recently Gartner highlighted a new trend combining BPM and the internet of things (IoT). It advocated that the BPM groups within enterprises should play a role in managing the IoT. This is representative of organizations wanting more out of their BPM solutions.

Today repair and maintenance is one of the most difficult and complex activity in large manufacturing organizations. Consider the advantages of predictive maintenance. When a critical shop floor machine is fitted with sensors, it can know its current condition and wear & tear and, whenever necessary, initiate its own maintenance process. A combination of sensors and human operators monitor the environment continuously for hazards or damage resulting in reduced risks and maintenance costs.

Companies that take advantage of these “intelligent processes” stand to gain a significant advantage against competition. BPM can no longer only be about people but needs to interact and utilize the multiplicity of sensors, devices and channels that exist.

My Thoughts…

As I read this, I realized that I have limited my thinking about business processes. Interconnected devices are changing our lives. They are opening more avenues to managing processes. They are allowing processes that haven’t been managed before to be managed.
I hope you use this to challenge your own thinking about processes within your company. Find new ways to use the interconnected world to create a unique competitive advantage for your company.

Your Thoughts…

How many of you have begun taking advantage of the internet of things?

Scott Cleveland

Scott Cleveland is a technical, innovative and creative marketing manager with more than 25 years of experience in marketing, marketing management, sales, sales management and business process consulting aimed at high-tech companies.

Don’t Talk the Process – Walk the Process

There are so many ways to gather information these days that it’s easy for us to get lost in the detail. When it comes to looking at and understanding processes we have the same challenge – how to wade through that sea of information and data to find the truth.

The short answer is that you will never understand everything and you shouldn’t expect to. It is ridiculous for us as process analysts to walk onto a project and set about trying to learn every piece of information on a subject that has taken years to create and which sits within the heads of numerous subject matter experts. To quote a sage friend of mine, we need to take the approach of “how much do you need to know, to know that you know enough”.

Whilst workshops can have value, and depth interviews, well, add depth, I am a great fan of walking the process. This involves very simply following the flow of information through the process – walking to each person or department and asking them to take me through their work. Information will always disappear into systems and pop out somewhere else, but we can still follow that too.

What walking the process achieves for me is to build a visual picture of flows in my head. It also helps me to build relationships with the staff involved in the process and to explain what I am trying to achieve. There is something about walking the process that helps the staff to build a sense of trust and to speak openly about the work they perform and the issues they face. Putting the same staff in a workshop environment creates a totally different set of group dynamics where staff may not be so open with their thoughts.

So as a starting point, do not underestimate the power of walking the process. It’s an ideal first step.

Craig Reid

Craig Reid

Craig Reid is known throughout the business world as “The Process Ninja”. He is a passionate advocate of business process management. His unique approach to business process improvement rapidly achieves business benefits by creating alignment between customers, strategy, processes and technology. Recognised as a leader in his field, Craig’s work has been featured on the BNet, Telstra Enterprise & Government and Flyingsolo.com.au websites as well as in the Sun-Herald newspaper.

The 3 Rates of Change

There are three basic rates of change that have a profound effect on us. Changes that happen very fast – that are now time – are easy for us to absorb and reconcile. The pace of change keeps them whole in our perception and that makes them palatable.

Changes that occur very slowly in small chunks we don’t notice. They don’t interfere with our emotions because we don’t cognitively observe them we can only rationally observe them.

The really nasty version of change is the one where the change is occurring over a period of time that is not fast enough of us to easily absorb but is happening fast enough that we have some cognitive awareness of the change. This condition is where anxiety, depression, worries and demoralizing stress sets in.

Now get ready for this next bit because you’re probably in for a shock. Which kind of change do you think organizations, change methods and change agents most often advocate? Yeah, the worst kind! Let’s embark on a several year change program to help us move our organization to a new character, business model or way of working.

But what happens if we go against the grain by encapsulating change in what can effectively be thought of as “30 day chunks.” Can we keep our perspective, focus and cognitive awareness on target for 30 days? We sure can!

How would this work? It would cause us to take focused actions, tightly focused change, often in 30 days, while the longer term strategy is realized through a planned series of focused changes. As these changes accumulate they produce the long term change that reshapes the organization into a new brighter, vibrant and more successful entity – without us having to deal with the large change case in a cognitive way. We can recognize it rationally but we don’t have to live through it cognitively. Instead we live in the tightly focused cognitive world of many 30 day change cycles.

Leah Morse

Leah is an author, producer, elearning developer, and marketing communications professional focused on the psychological and linguistic aspects of communication, and intercultural communication.

The Three Faces of Process

Every process has three distinct faces. You, or your organization, are probably organized around one of these faces. You may even have a mixture of faces used on processes depending on what part of the organization performs the process. In a few cases you even be managing by more than one of these process faces. But chances are you aren’t: and chances are even better that you’re not using the face of process that is most important to your success.

What are the three faces of process?

The Organizational Perspective

The most prevalent face of process is what I would term the “organizational view of process.” That means that the definition of the process is captured, articulated, managed and acted upon from the Point of View of the organization.

This is almost always the case for processes where any form of workflow is involved. We review, map, structure, add rules, and create queues and interfaces into this “face” of the process that is intended to be an articulation of what the organization “does” when completely some definition of work.

It’s also the face of process that best fulfills our desire to control our organization. We should all know through basic educational instruction that human beings have a very strong desire to attempt to “control” ourselves, our environment and even our world as defined by our personal world view.

Of course that control aspect is not real – it’s nothing more than a constructed reality. It is something we choose to believe because it meets one or more of our urgent needs. Whether that need is to feel like we are at the helm of a well-oiled machine or to allay the fears of a deeper seated psychological need to feel that our lives are not mere flotsam and jetsam tossing about on the sea of life the reality is that for all of our efforts to create that “controlled environment” all that really happens is that things get further and further out of control.

Again, this is the most pervasive face of process used in our process activities and as you will soon see it is by far the least beneficial face of process.

The Work Perspective

The next face of process comes from the experience or point of view of the people doing the work. In this case what we capture is the essence of the process the people in our organization live and work in each and every day.

This face of process has far more opportunity for us. Helping the people in our organization do their work in a simpler, easier and more successful way has direct benefits to the organization. This is the entry point at which we first tap into the simultaneous benefit creation of increased revenues, decreased costs and enhanced customer service.

The Customer Perspective

Finally though is the big winner, the face of process that reflects the experience of the customer from their point of view. Not only is this face of process the one we can use to turbo-charge our personal and business success, it is also the face of process that is the most unique. The organizational face of process and the work face of the process will have a reasonable amount of similarity. The customer face of the process is more often than not at complete odds with its cousins – that’s the degree of difference between inside-out thinking (the first two faces) and outside-in thinking (the perspective and experience of the customer).

So which face of process are you organized around? What about organizing around the people doing the work and the customer (which is the only reason we exist in the first place)? Both of these faces of process lead to actions that create the simultaneous benefits of increased revenues, decreased costs and enhanced customer service. The organizational face of process leads to big expenditures, increased complexity, change management programs, customer dissatisfaction, employee dissatisfaction, and so on.

It doesn’t matter what the organization “thinks” its processes are, it matters what they really are. You can’t find the real essence of a process through modeling “as is” processes because at the best such process models are a symbolic interpretation of what we “think” our processes should look like (in detailed form of course) – within the confines of the modeling tool’s language and concept. That’s one heck of a bunch of Moments of Truth, break points and business rules coming into play around just creating the symbolic definition of a process.

Terry Schurter

Terry Schurter

Terry is an Internationally recognized process expert, Author, Speaker and Thought Leader in Business Process Management (BPM) and Customer Experience Management (CEM).

BPM – People & Process

Peter Schooff of ebizQ posed this question…

Is it impossible to get a process right the first time?

My Thoughts…

I am convinced that it is impossible.

I have been involved in the analysis portion of both BPM and PLM implementations. We always start with a group of users describing the process as they know it. Different people will have different perceptions of the process. Each sees the process from their point of view.

This group will come to some kind of agreement as to the process and we will document it.

At the next meeting, one or more of the original people will not be able to attend and they will send a surrogate. One or more of the surrogates will point out that the process doesn’t work that way.

At the end of this meeting, we document the current perception of the process.

After ‘configuring’ the software, you begin to use it for real. You will almost always discover that the process doesn’t work the way you thought it did and you will need to change it.

This assumes that by ‘get a process right’ we mean that we have captured the as-is process accurately. If by ‘right’ we mean the optimized process, there is no chance.

When you have real people use the process, you will see that the process doesn’t work that way or shouldn’t work that way. I always caution my customers to not have perfection as a goal. If you thought you had achieved perfection, once you add people you will find that you haven’t. So, start with a good process and implement a process improvement strategy. Since the people in the process aren’t always the same people and the same people are subject to change themselves, process improvement strategies need to be ongoing activities.

Your Thoughts…

What has been your experience?

Scott Cleveland

Scott Cleveland is a technical, innovative and creative marketing manager with more than 25 years of experience in marketing, marketing management, sales, sales management and business process consulting aimed at high-tech companies.